Did you ever see this before?
Chris Morris and Armando Ianucci’s mockumentary about British swimming pools is as relevant today as it was in 1994. Because I’ve just been to a pool in Newcastle that is equally, or perhaps shitter, than the one they cleverly took the piss out of.
Jesmond Pool, or Jesmond Community Leisure Pool as it’s now known since it was rebranded by some charity or other in 1992, was where I learned to swim. I managed to scrape through a 10m swimming badge examination back in the Eighties, which remains one of my few sporting achievements. The pool itself hasn’t changed much since those weekly swimming sessions. In fact, I’d wager most of the elastoplasts that were floating like detritus in the lower depths were from my primary school classmates.
Today was my first visit since 1990, and I’d like to thank the people who’ve taken it over for making it a swimming experience that I’ll never forget. Or repeat.
The £4.20 price tag for an adult swim is, for a start, rather steep considering the lack of facilities. I was naively expecting it to be cheaper than the £5.10 I paid at the vastly superior Beckenham Spa, which I highly recommend despite the huge hole it puts in your pocket. The reasons will become apparent.
There’s disabled access for those who require it, though I doubt there are many clamouring for it. And considering how awful the pavements are for anyone who is disabled in ye olde streets of Jesmond, the copious amount of wankers in Audi A4’s and students tweeting frantically about their latest dose of STD’s are likely to keep these poor sods well away. Acorn Road is a hotbed of pricks, students, wankers, and arsehole students. People who use “like” every two words in each sentence. Middle-aged men who are pissed at four in the afternoon screaming about woodwork outside Greggs. Spoiled teens complaining about being unable to find a place with en suite bathroom for less than £700 pcm. There are four coffee shops on a short road packed with boring people boring others about “relationships” (whatever they are) and nothing else. Jesus, had he existed, died for this shit.
The lobby area was completely different from the old days, and has bugger all else apart from a vending machine and a counter with four layabout staff watching the match. Having only a fiver note and a 50p piece, I asked if I could get change for the lockers. It being a Saturday, I might as well have asked for him to translate Ulysses into Korean from the blank stare I got. “We don’t have any change.” That was the extent of his response. No “I’ll see if I can find some for you” or “I’m awfully sorry, we don’t have any change at the moment but…”. I’m sorry for interrupting the football during your working hours.
Eventually, one of the staff who was in her sixties volunteered to look in the vending machine, and found a single 20p piece. This still caused problems for the barely-pubic front of house brat who was unable to add up a pile of 5p pieces to make up 50p. Then when I went to pay for the swim, they wanted to add another 30p onto the transaction for using a card. No thanks. With this faff over and done with, I went into the changing room.
Changed it most certainly had. There are only 2 cubicles, and neither of these are private as they lack doors (compared with the 30+ at Beckenham, though it is a mixed changing area for both men, women and children). The lockers take your 20p but don’t return them, which means if you want to take a shower you have to leave your shower stuff out to be nicked (this is Newcastle, after all) or open your locker after swimming and take the chance of having your gear robbed in one go. The keys don’t have an elasticated wrist band, so I ended up having to leave the key on the floor by the pool because I don’t have the same trunks from the 80s with the little pocket.
The floor was completely awash with water, and no staff came through with a mop to clean it up during the hour I was there. Kids were running around so I’m surprised none of them didn’t brain themselves after a bad slip. Not to mention the floor was dirty, with weird bits of string, empty shower gel bottles and filth dotted around. I was grossed out at the thought of putting my feet on the floor and this is not something that bothers me as my feet are vile at the best of times.
If you don’t like toilet stories, avoid this paragraph. I had to use the bog, and helpfully, there was no toilet paper in there. At all. The previous user had caked half of his dump on the back of the porcelain like a Rothko, so in disgust I had to take a brush to it. The floor in here was piss-soaked. I was enjoying myself not one jot.
Finally, I went into the main pool area. It was exactly the same as it was 25 years ago, except some of it had been annexed by a sauna and gym area. One member of staff was on duty and there was perhaps seven swimmers in the pool at 2:30pm. The water itself was warm and the act of swimming was performed until I was too knackered to do any more. Apart from a couple of hairy sods who tried to have a free sauna and got caught and bollocked, it was uneventful.
Back in the changing room, I unloaded all my gear into one of the individual changing rooms and then realised I’d done something utterly moronic. I’d forgotten to bring a towel. Well done. Drip drying looked like my only option, so I hopped in the shower then got dressed slowly. The coup de grace was the hair drier, which was a hand drier above head height with the nozzle pointed downwards. I shit you not. Cold air blasting from above, which didn’t do very much to dry my mop. It was almost worthy of appearing on FAIL BLOG. But that’s funny.
As the Great White once said: “Money well spent.”
tl;dr: Jesmond Pool is RUBBISH and OVERPRICED.